BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Iraqi authorities have no intention of continuing to use Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison after the U.S. military ends operations there in the next few months, Iraq’s justice minister said on Friday.
“There will be no detainees in Abu Ghraib,” Abd al-Hussein Shandel told Reuters, rejecting suggestions by U.S. officials that Iraq might continue to use it as a jail.
“It will just be used as a storage facility for the Justice Ministry,” he said.
In a surprise announcement, the U.S. military said on Thursday it planned to shut down the prison in the next two to three months after transferring remaining detainees elsewhere.
Shandel said the prison, a torture centre under Saddam Hussein that became internationally notorious for the abuse of prisoners by American soldiers, was too difficult to secure.
Situated in the Baghdad suburb of the same name, a bastion of Sunni Arab insurgents, the compound has come under regular attack, including a major assault that tried to free inmates.
The U.S. military says the 4,500 inmates being held by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib on suspicion of insurgent activity would be transferred elsewhere once a new site at the nearby airport was completed.
The sprawling prison compound had until recently also held 2,400 criminals under the control of the Justice Ministry. But Shandel said these had already been transferred to other sites.
The buildings at Abu Ghraib, which include the original 1960s, British-built jail and surrounding tented camp that has sprung up under U.S. control, would no longer be used as a prison because they were difficult to secure, he said.